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Electric bus familiarisation event

At the end of April, London Vision hosted its first face to face event as the restrictions around the COVID pandemic begin to loosen. The event focussed on the new electric buses that Transport for London has begun to incorporate into its fleet.

The event on 28th April was held in Dagenham in collaboration with TfL, Barking and Dagenham Sensory Team and Sight Action Havering to give blind and partially sighted people and people with other disabilities an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new buses. Bus garage staff, drivers and staff from TfL’s training and development team were also on hand to listen to feedback from attendees. The buses will be operating on the 174 route. 

A growing number of blind and partially sighted people in London have informed us of the key issues they have faced with the new electric buses. This event gave them a chance to explore the bus while stationary and get a feel for the layout, while highlighting problems directly to TfL and bus staff.

Key issues with the new electric buses

  • Poor colour contrast of social distancing signage on the buses makes it hard to read.
  • New positioning of a pole near the wheelchair area has potential to cause injury because it now bends into and impedes the main walkway from the front of the bus.
  • Very narrow walkway from entrance of the bus to the back, too narrow for a guide dog user and dog to easily pass. This could also impede parents with children, or someone receiving sighted assistance.
  • The motor and batteries of the electric bus are housed at the back of the vehicle, meaning there is no longer a back window, making the rear of the bus dark and difficult to navigate.
  • The new buses have two steps leading towards the seating area at the back of the bus, however there is very little headroom and while assessing the bus, many blind and partially sighted people hit their heads. Passengers over 5ft tall, would not be able to get to seats at the back of the bus without hitting their head.
  • Many of the seats on the lower deck are up a step, presenting issues for people with mobility problems. There are also only four priority seats available. Of these four, only one is suitable for a guide dog user (at floor level, enabling the passenger to sit with their guide dog alongside them) or someone with mobility issues.

Specific feedback from the event

More than 40 people attended the event, spaced out over three different sessions. Attendees offered on the spot feedback to drivers, station staff and TfL representatives. Bhavini Makwana also followed up with attendees after the event, below is some specific feedback on the new bus design:

“I can’t believe that there is only one designated seat where a guide dog owner and guide dog can comfortably sit. This is within a set of 4 priority seats, which can and are used by anyone with a hidden or visible disability, pregnant women and older persons. All other seats are confined, don’t have an open space under the seat and are up a step”.

“I did not like the bus layout at all – who did TfL consult with? It seems as it was designed by someone who envisaged the bus to be used [only] by short people”.

The hearing loop system did not work effectively. I just travelled on this exact bus, coming to this event and the system was not clear. I had to ask the driver to ensure it was sorted out”. 

“I have had to travel on this bus at least 3 or 4 times a week; I have hurt my leg on this bus so many times due to the pole coming out into the middle aisle. When the bus is busy or you are trying to keep your distance, it is very difficult when you cannot see, the bus is narrow and the pole just makes it very difficult to navigate past without knocking into it”. 

Buses with this layout are currently operating on the network, with more soon to follow. London Vision is awaiting confirmation about which routes will now include electric buses of this design in order to inform blind and partially sighted passengers. 

Get in touch

Do electric buses operate on routes that you use? Have you had a positive or negative experience using them? Please share your bus journey examples with Bhavini Makwana on info@londonvision.org so she can share them with Transport for London and continue advocating for people with sight loss and their right to accessible transport.

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